Breaking Up Is Hard To Do by Emily Smart

Or maybe it isn’t, if you’re Gene Pitney. I don’t like to speak ill of the dead, but Mr Pitney, I do have a bone to pick with you. Let us go back to 1963, and your hit song ‘Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa’. If you don’t know the singer and this song, you are a) too young to be reading this blog so go away and get on with your homework or b) someone who hasn’t been out to a karaoke bar with me.

The premise of the  ballad is that the protagonist, oh let’s call him Gene Pitney, has been away from his true love and is making the journey back home in his motor (I’m  imagining a large, open-top, gleaming, go-faster striped American classic) to see in her in Tulsa. On the seemingly long journey home, he requires an overnight stay and (der, der, der) gets it on with a local girl:

“The jukebox started to play and night time turned into day as we were dancing closely, all of a sudden I lost control as I held her charms and I caressed her, kissed her, told her I’d die
before I would let her out of my arms.”

Good God man, you’d only just met her and you were en route to your ‘dearest, darling.’ There’s a name for chaps like you. My mother would refer to you as a ‘twicer,’ whilst I’d probably go for something a little more colourful, like two-timing bastard.

That Gene Pitney pulled over to a motel, met a woman who was clearly up for a bit of how’s your father and got a bit carried away is one thing. Writing a letter to his former lover giving unnecessary details of the tryst and dumping her with the lines:

“I hate to do this to you but I love somebody new, what can I do? And I can never, never, never go home again.”

That’s got to be a no-no in my book. And why aren’t you returning to Tulsa, Gene? Did you run out of petrol? Were you too tired to drive another mile after a night of full-on naughtiness? Did the girl get knocked up or did you catch an STD? The list is endless, and we could speculate all day.

Gene Pitney, you stand accused of not only shagging some random woman on the drive home to your loved one, then dumping your ex via letter,  but also twisting the knife by writing a song about it which was listened to by millions throughout the world and is still being played in my lounge some 50 years later! The shame of that poor passed-over woman. Did she ever find love again? Did she die of a broken heart? Did she ever leave Tulsa? Did she buy Gene Pitney’s record?

And what of Mr Pitney? Well let’s just put it this way, there was no sign of the motel Jezebel when he teamed up with Marc (Tainted Love) Almond to sing ‘Something’s Gotten Hold of my Heart’ two decades later in 1989. Had he by this stage given up women for good and found that actually his true love was a bloke? Nothing would surprise me with this fickle old bugger’s (ahem) track record.

In fairness to Gene, he didn’t actually write ‘Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa’; that accolade goes to composer Burt Bacharach and lyricist Hal David, but let’s be candid, when did facts get in the way of a good story? In hindsight, I think Gene probably did the right thing. Ladies, when were you last dumped by a man who was honest, wrote you a letter explaining his predicament and then turned it into an international best-selling song? My understanding these days is you’re lucky to get a text (from either sex) calling it a day saying ‘l8ers.’

Come back you chivalrous old charmer Pitney, all is forgiven and P.S. you can get cream for that itchy rash.

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